Should I Buy an Acoustic Piano or a Digital Piano or an Electric Keyboard?

 Acoustic Piano

Acoustic Pianos

An acoustic piano is the what most people think of when the heard the word piano.  The most common type of acoustic piano is called an upright piano or sometimes also called a vertical or box piano.  In general, upright pianos are for home use or any others area with limited space. The second type of acoustic piano is the grand piano.  These are much larger than upright pianos and are typically used for performances.  They can also sometimes be spotted in the homes of the affluent.

Both upright and grand pianos share several characteristics and they function in identical ways. All acoustic pianos have 88 keys, 52 white and 36 black. They have strings within the body of the pianos that are struck by small hammers when the keys are depressed.  The harder you strike the keys, the harder the hammers hit the strings and the louder the sound. Since the hammers weight a small amount, there is a very distinct weighted feeling  that pianos are known for.

Most pianos have 3 pedals near the floor called foot pedals. Each pedal has a specific use. The right pedal is called the sustaining pedal.  When you press the sustaining pedal, the dampers that are normally pushing the strings are removed which allows them to vibrate for much longer, giving a sustained sound.  The function of the middle pedal changes from model to model. One common function is called sostenuto.  This is when only the keys depressed at the time of pushing the pedal will be sustained.  The other keys will not be impacted.  Another possible function is “practice mode”.  This is where the strings are muted so that one can practice without creating much noise.  The left pedal is the soft pedal.  Pushing this pedal moves the hammers closer to the strings.  Thus creating a softer sound.

Digital Pianos

Digital Pianos are recent invention designed to replicate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano.  They are electronically driven using computer chips to detect input and replicate the sounds of a piano and often other instruments.  As there are no hammers needed to strike the strings, the keys are carefully weighted and constructed to replicate the feel of a real piano. Typically there are several different instrument sounds, typically called voices, that can be changed in the user interface.

Digital pianos use speakers to output their sound and the volume level can be easily adjusted.  Additionally, most digital pianos have a headphone jack that allows one to practice without making any noise.  Some digital pianos have sound output jacks that allow users to export sounds to their computer for composition and mixing.  Digital pianos are lightweight and portable.  As a result, many performers have a digital piano that they can bring to different gigs and set them up with little effort.

Electric Keyboards

Electric Keyboards resemble digital pianos in look.  However, there are some key differences.  First is that electric keyboards lack the weighted key feel.  Often times their keys are little more than plastic molded to fit the shape.  This makes keyboards not so useful for piano players looking to practice.  Also, keyboards tend to have a lot more voices.  This is usually because they are used more a toys than instruments.  They typically have less than 88 keys, with 61 keys being a rough standard.  The one benefit of electric keyboards is their price.  Some of the cheaper models can be picked up for less than $100.

What Are You Hoping to Get Out of Ownership?

There are a lot of things people on the market for a piano could be looking for out of their next purchase.

Are you looking for a piece of furniture?  Look towards either an acoustic piano or a digital piano with a nice stand.  Upper end digital pianos with a nice stand look very nice, very professional and some come in different colors to match your other furniture.

Are you or someone in your family taking lessons and looking to practice? Look towards an acoustic or a digital piano.  Keyboards don’t adequately replicate the feel of real pianos.  This can create some issues with finger strength and an unfamiliar feeling when you get onto a real pianos.

Are you looking for an instrument or toy for your 5 year old?  If you are looking for a cheap toy that makes sounds in hopes that your young child will enjoy music, a keyboard is the way to go.  Keyboards come with the added benefit of being less expensive.  This helps to soften the blow if there is no interest and the keyboard gets packed away into a closet.

Are you looking for a piano that you can perform on?  If you need a high quality sound, then you’ll want a digital piano or an acoustic piano.  If you can leave your instrument in place, then an acoustic piano is the way to go.  But if you need to move your instrument, then we recommend a digital piano.

Do you need to move your new instrument frequently?  Acoustic pianos are heavy, like really heavy.  And frequently moving them can damage them.  Also, changing environments, specifically temperature and humidity, can cause them to detune.  When you need to move your instrument frequently, you’ll want to go with a digital piano or a keyboard.

Are you a professional?  Professionals need high quality sound as their livelihood depends on it.  Keyboards just won’t cut it in this instance.  You’ll need to go with an acoustic or digital piano.

Do you have Enough Space?

Acoustic pianos weigh a lot and take up a lot of space.  Upright pianos weigh between 300 pounds and 800 pounds.  They also take up more space as they fully house the hammers, strings, etc.  If space is a concern, you’ll likely need a digital piano or a keyboard.  The lightest keyboards weigh in the area of 10 pounds.  Digital pianos generally weigh between 30 pounds and 80 pounds.  If you live in a small place and need to store your piano when you aren’t using it, you’ll need a keyboard or digital piano.

What is your Budget?

Keyboards can cost under $100.  Grand Pianos can cost $50,000+.  Whatever you are looking to spend, you can find a suitable option.  In general, electric keyboards cost between $70 and $300.  Digital Pianos cost between $300 and $2,000.  And acoustic pianos cost between $3,000 and $50,000, with upright pianos being on the lower end and grand pianos being on the higher end.

If you’ve decided to purchase a digital piano or an electric keyboard, please check out our home page for more information or check out the comprehensive digital piano comparison matrix.